Bob Smizik, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, June 6, 2007
When he was a young shortstop/third baseman with the Milwaukee Brewers, Gary Sheffield often — he admitted years later — would intentionally make errors, purposely throwing the ball over the head of the first baseman.
In effect, Sheffield was cheating his teammates and his fans. That’s about as low as a player can go. But Sheffield never seemed to pay the price for his actions. A great bat — and that’s what he has — can overcome a lot of character issues. Sheffield has been a coveted player for close to two decades and been welcomed warmly in San Diego, Florida, Los Angeles, Atlanta, New York and most recently Detroit.
His offensive production has helped him earn about $140 million during a major-league career that began in 1988. It’s pretty safe to say Sheffield leads a charmed life.
Further proof of that is that his recent hateful remarks filled with blatantly racist words virtually have gone unnoticed. That’s too bad. They should be reviewed by the commissioner’s office and, at least, repudiated. It will be interesting to see if Bud Selig has the courage to stand up to Sheffield.
Not that Selig should be the only offended party. There should be outrage among Latin players, including his teammates. Nor should black players feel comfortable with the stereotypical comments Sheffield made about them.
According to Sheffield, who is black, Latin players are too willing to do The Man’s bidding. They’re just happy to have a job and do as they’re told. Black players, Sheffield suggests, are of sterner stuff. They don’t do The Man’s bidding.
Sheffield’s comments appear in the current issue of GQ, an upscale magazine that caters to men. They came in response to a question about the significant decline in the number of black players in Major League Baseball. About 8.5 percent of major-leaguers are black, which is down almost by half from what it was in 1995.
“I called it years ago,” Sheffield said in the magazine. “What I called is that you’re going to see more black faces, but there ain’t no English going to be coming out… . [It’s about] being able to tell [Latin players] what to do — being able to control them.
“Where I’m from, you can’t control us. You might get a guy to do it that way for a while because he wants to benefit, but in the end, he is going to go back to being who he is. And that’s a person that you’re going to talk to with respect, you’re going to talk to like a man.
“These are the things my race demands. So, if you’re equally good as this Latin player, guess who’s going to get sent home? I know a lot of players that are home now can outplay a lot of these guys.”
As for why there has been such a decline in the number of black player in Major League Baseball, look no further than youth baseball. Not only are the great black athletes being drawn to football and basketball, a significant portion of them are not even picking up baseball. The amount of baseball being played in poverty areas — black and white — is way down. It takes money, organizations and fathers willing to put in the time to create neighborhood youth baseball. Those commodities are not always available in such neighborhoods.
(Posted on June 6, 2007)
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